Monday, May 20, 2013

Joshua Jay Espinosa - Gamer and Aspiring Designer

This past week has been extremely busy for me. Not only did I finish up my first year of my grad studies in composing, completing several great new pieces, I also was contacted by multiple people (seriously, about 5) who asked me if they could use some of my old music in their projects, such as video games they have created, or even if I could compose them custom tracks. One such inquirer was Joshua Espinosa, a young artist who is working hard to make his passion of creating games into a reality. He just released a demo of a game from his "Poet" series, which features my battle theme "Edge of Night." I interviewed him over the weekend, and here is what he had to say:

1) What, if any, musical background do you have?

I am sad to say that my musical background is not a very full one. I always wanted to take up the violin or the piano but my parents weren't able to afford the instruments or lessons. However, I used to have a cute recorder that my school supplied me with. I used to light up the house with that little guy, I did. I also used to sing in the school choir before high school but, now, I simply admire music from the pews. Its an outstanding gift these musicians have--the ability to speak to the soul without a single word.

2) You just released a demo of your game "Poet 2011."  How will this differ from your upcoming game "Poet?"

"Poet 2011" was actually just an assessment of the mechanics of game development. It was a test and that can be seen through its clich├ęs and generality. That being said, the gameplay and story were not something I was completely comfortable with. I collaborated with a friend on the story and borrowed a lot of resources/assets from programmers in order to just focus on putting the pieces together. In the end, however, it just didn't feel like a "Joshua Jay" game. I also don't speak with my old collab partner (Sandra Carla Roffi) as much as I should, so I've decided to leave her characters designs and story ideas so she may use them in any of her independent projects. 
To fully answer the question, "Poet" will feature new characters, a new world, a new story and (hopefully) new gameplay elements. The character of Poet will be returning along with a different rendition of Camus, Snowdude and the Professor (characters seen near the end of the demo). That is about all that is returning, though. Take "Poet 2011" as Poet's training regimen for "Poet". 

3) How had music played a role in your video game experience, both as a player and creator?

Music is the game. You can have a beautifully built game but with a poor soundtrack you'll put your players to sleep.  Similarly, if you have a less than mediocre game and an intense soundtrack, you'll be able to make up for anything you are lacking. As a player, video game music has made my video game experience unforgettably memorable (excuse the redundancy). I'll hear the theremin-like sounds of Animal Crossing and be transported to a simpler time or I'll listen to the intense wails of the distressed choir from that boss battle one spends days beating  and be granted the strength to push myself to the very limits. If composed correctly, video game music stays with the player as their own personal soundtrack for the rest of their life.
The music plays in with my experience as a creator, as well. I admit to going on very long walks and listening to music (mostly pieces from video games) in order to create/cultivate my ideas. As the music plays, all becomes blank, the world melts around me and I am transported to a world in which my characters are guided into their stories by each note. 

4) What are your goals for the future in the gaming industry?

As far as genres are concerned, I intend to not only reanimate the slowly (veeery slowly) dying genre of traditional Role Playing Games, but I also want to bring together the perfect blend of Western RPGs and Japanese traditional RPGs. Although this has been done before, the blended genre is becoming increasingly scarce on the market. 
My overall goal, however, is to bring a studio from the ground up that produces "top shelf" games in order tell my stories and have them be told forever. Hence the name of my blog, "The Immortal Stories". Games, I feel, are one of the best mediums in which one can tell his or her stories because the player is allowed to walk through one's mind. I want people to take a stroll through my mind. I want them to take every symbol that reflects the pains and joys from my life and grow with it...all while engaging in an enjoyable gaming experience.
I know, that's a pretty romanticized and mushy goal for a game developer but it is my ultimate goal, in essence. 

5) Who are some of your game music heroes?

Ah! That's easy. I have what might be deemed as an unhealthy bias to Japanese composers. I want to say that my video game music heroes lie within Nintendo but I am forced to side with the composers under Square Enix. Although they tie in my book, I can actually list my favorite composers under Square Enix off the top of my head, thus, leading me to believe that I favor them a tad bit more.
In no specific order:
1) Yoko Shinomura (Known for her work for Kingdom Hearts)
2) Nobuo Uematsu (Known for his music in the Final Fantasy franchise before 2007)
3) Masashi Hamauzu (Known for his work in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy)
4) Keiichi Okabe (Known for his work in NIER, along with others)
5) Hiroshi Yamaguchi (Not from Square Enix, but composed with others on the Bayonetta soundtrack)

My Thoughts on the Interview

Well, it is never too late to start learning an instrument. If you have a job or can start selling games, save up a bit, and get the instrument that is most interesting. Because violin is pretty hard if you don't know any other instruments, I'd recommend piano. However, advice I can say is very helpful regarding learning new things is that you should first follow your passions. If game design is the main thing, let it be the main thing. If you try to learn too much, you will spread yourself very thin and be less successful at what matters to you. But, hobbies are always a great thing to have... so long as they remain hobbies and don't become equal to the more important things in life.

That is a nice thing you did for your old partner. Too many people out there try to use other people's ideas from past collaborations in new projects, usually taking all of the credit for what was not even theirs.

Music definitely is what makes the game experience, I agree. I am super surprised at how many people know what a theremin is. Good reference! And yes, music that is composed correctly has stayed with me so far, and I doubt it is going anywhere any time soon. That's why I always get so excited when I talk to Grant Kirkhope, creator of all of N64's best music. What he did 15 years ago still floats around in my head all the time.

It's very interesting that you go on walks and listen to music to create characters and scenes. I create or look at characters and scenes to make better music!

Your goals aren't at all over-romanticized. In fact, they are pretty clear and steady. There are lots of people who would love to take what you have to give. The difference between you accomplishing that dream, which is very possible, will probably come down to two things. How hard you worked at it, knowing when to take breaks and care for yourself, and how well you treated those you met along the way. It will not at all be easy, but those of us who live our own dreams instead of someone else's are always the ones who forget that giving up is an option.

All great composers you mentioned, though if you are biased to Japanese composers, you can't leave out Joe Hisaishi, who replaced the Square Enix composers as my favorite composer from Japan. He does a lot of stuff for anime and is probably better known for it, but he works in the video game side of things too.

For access to Joshua's game "Poet 2011," visit his site at : The Immortal Stories (unfortunately, you must be a Windows user to play the demo).

Here is my theme that is used in his battle sequences:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your kind, wise and informative words! I'm definitely going to look into filling that musical void in my childhood. Piano sounds like a good place to start.
    I'll also look into Joe Hisaishi. I'm pretty sure I've heard of his pieces but names tend to escape me.

    May we press onward! I look forward to being in touch :)